King Chango | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The raucous but rather generic ska punk of this New York rock-en-espanol band's 1996 debut got a thorough rethinking--as did the lineup--on their most recent album, 2000's The Return of El Santo (Luaka Bop). It blended roots reggae, dancehall, ska, funk, hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, and various Latin American styles with a slick pop sensibility that allowed the group to begin making headway in the Hispanic mainstream, while Venezuelan-born front man Andres Blanco flipped easily between English and Spanish. "Sin Ti," a sunny, soulful reggae tune with a pounding dancehall break, has become an unlikely smash on the local Latino station Viva 103, which is bringing the group to town for its anniversary concert. While tunes like "I Don't Care," a treacly English-language pop trifle that slaloms between son montuno and bossa lite, and "Finalmente," a cloying bit of turntable-mottled tropical pop, reek of demographic consulting, most of the album serves up feet-first pleasure with unusual sophistication. "El Santo" braids an irresistible accordion-stoked cumbia groove with dancehall patter, "Brujeria" jacks up acoustic Venezuelan folk, "Best Dressed Pimp" situates sly Spanglish rapping over fatback funk, and "Champion Sound" unleashes a pummeling fusion of jungle, dancehall, and dub. If King Chango can even approach the bravado and craft of the album live, this'll be a great show. The bill is rounded out by less adventurous Latino pop fare: Alejandra Guzman, Kabah, Oro Solido, and Luis Fonsi. Saturday, March 30, 8 PM, Odeum, 1033 N. Villa, Villa Park; 312-573-9400 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Lantry.

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